How to set up search ads on Google AdWords
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Google AdWords

How to Set Up a Basic Search Campaign in AdWords

AdWords Search campaigns are the bread and butter of Google’s AdWords advertising platform. Mastering search campaigns are integral if you want to take your business’ marketing efforts to the next level.

By using Search Campaigns on AdWords, you catapult your business to the top of a person’s Google Search results when they search for something in your business area, your competitors, or out of genuine curiosity. For example, when you search “Furniture Store Colorado” in Google, the results will show a few things:

Google search for furniture stores in Colorado

Even though I made this search on desktop, there are no organic results above the fold here! All you see are ads competing for that precious real estate. The business map in the middle also takes up a ton of space, so it’s incredibly important for advertisers to compete for these coveted spots on top. Beneath all these results, you will see the most organically relevant search results, followed by more ads.

As of February 2016, Google removed all side ads except product listing ads for Google Shopping stores. This means that there is a maximum of 4 ads at the top of the fold, followed by organic search results, and up to 4 ads at the bottom of the page before you click on to the 2nd search page results.

Smart move Google, now advertisers are competing even more heavily for the top 4 spots.


How are advertisers charged?

Advertisers are charged on a “CPC” or “Cost Per Click” basis, which means advertisers are only charged whenever someone clicks on your ad.

So, Wayfair was charged when I clicked on their result (sorry, Wayfair, I’m not actually in the market for furniture). The amount you are charged per click varies based on two main factors:

1. The bid market

Just as they preach in Econ101, competition creates markets, and markets drive price. High demand for a product usually translates to high search volume. Businesses exist to meet this demand on the supply side. CPC will vary depending on the number of advertisers vying for your search eyeballs.

Read our guide on how the Google Adwords Auction works.

2. Your Ad’s Quality score

The last thing Google wants is rich advertisers dumping money just to show crappy and irrelevant ads on Google search. They want you to have the best experience possible, so when you click on a search ad you’ll be satisfied and click on more ads in the future. Bad ads fuel an ecosystem that encourages a race to the bottom!

So the way Google counteracts this is by denoting how relevant your ad is to the person’s search. This is called Quality Scorewhich is determined by these four factors:

  • Landing Page Experience & Historical Landing Page Experience
  • Ad Relevance & Historical Ad Relevance
  • Expected Click-Through-Rates & Historical Expected Click-Through-Rates
  • Historical Quality Score

If you’re Nike, and want to show up when people search “Adidas Soccer Cleats,” you’re going to have a significantly lower quality score than Adidas. In order to gain ad prominence, Nike will have to pay a lot more for that top slot than Adidas. Once you get set up, learn how to master quality score for your business.

How to Set Up an AdWords Search Campaign

Now that you’ve looked under the hood of what goes on in a search campaign, it’s time to get started and build one out yourself in both the old and new AdWords experiences.

New AdWords Experience

First, open up Google AdWords. From your “Campaigns” dashboard, click the blue ‘+‘ button.

Search Campaign on Google AdWords

Now select the campaign type that best serves your goals. Since you’re here, let’s select the “Search” campaign type.

How to create a new adwords search campaign

Now you can select goals for your campaign based on your own success metrics, whether it be a phone call, an email signup, or a purchase. If you choose to use goals, AdWords provides recommendations for features and settings that can help you meet those goals.

This is Google’s way of pushing advertisers to use more of their automated machine learning optimizations, which can come in handy for beginner advertisers.

Creating a campaign without a goal provides access to ALL of the features of a search campaign. This provides the most flexibility and customization opportunities for seasoned advertisers (aka the expert digital marketer we want you to become!)

Create a campaign without a goal

After selecting the campaign goal, you will then be able to enter a name for your campaign. Although AdWords enters a default campaign name for you, you should choose a name that clearly describes the theme of the campaign.

Enter a campaign name

Next, select your network. The Networks setting indicates where you want your ad to appear based on the campaign type you choose. With the Google Search Network, your ad can appear on Google search sites and non-Google search sites (such as CNN) that partner with Google to show search ads. These sites are called ‘Search Partners.’

For optimal results, we often recommend running Search campaigns solely on the Search Network.

Search network only

Next, select your locations. If you would like to add multiple locations or target a radius around a certain location, you can select “Advanced Features” and add your targeting.

For more information, read our complete guide on Geotargeting.

Locations United States

Upon selecting what locations you want your ads to show in, set up your budget and delivery method.

If your campaigns are performing well, Google will spend up to 2x your daily budget. However, they will never spend more than your allocated monthly budget.

When selecting your delivery type, you have two options: standard and accelerated.

  • Standard delivery (recommended) spends your budget evenly over a given day
  • Accelerated delivery spends your budget as quickly as possible, meaning your budget can be depleted by the end of the day.

Delivery Method

Next, set up your bidding. Choose your campaign’s main optimization focus:

  1. Conversions: the action that is being measured by interacting with your ad. For example, a signup, or a purchase.
  2. Conversion value: the financial worth of each conversion
  3. Clicks: someone clicks on your page

Further reads: The Google AdWords Glossary

Choose your bidding strategy

Select your bidding strategy. You can either choose to manually set your bids for clicks on your ads or let AdWords do it for you. Your bid strategy controls how you pay for users to interact with your ads.

Your bid limit is the most you’ll pay per click for ads in an ad group.

The ‘automatically maximize conversion’ options is an automated bid strategy while the manual option provides you the most control over your campaigns.

Manually bid on AdWords

Next, set up ad extensions to improve your quality score and ad performance. Extensions include even more information with your ads, such as location information, links to pages on your website, and your phone number.

Further reads: Complete Guide to Ad Extensions

  1. Sitelink Extensions
  2. Callout Extensions
  3. Call Extensions

Note: You also have the ability to set up the following extensions if you click the “Additional Settings” button at the bottom of the campaign creation screen:

  1. Structured Snippet Extensions
  2. App Extensions
  3. Message Extensions
  4. Promotion Extensions
  5. Price Extensions
  6. Location Extensions

You may select any audiences you’d like to add to the campaign. There are two options for targeting these RLSA audiences:

  1. Targeting narrows the reach of the campaign to only the audience you select.
  2. Observation (recommended) allows you to target both the audience list you select as well as anyone else who fits the criteria of your campaign.


Once you set up your audience target, click the “Additional Settings” option.

additional settings

This allows you to set up the additional extensions as mentioned above, and will also select your location options.

We recommend you only target people “in your targeted location” as opposed to the defaulted “in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations.” This ensures that you show your ads only in your desired locations as opposed to people who are “interested” in the location.

Location Options

And voila! You’re done! Congratulations. Now let’s go on to see how you can set up conversion tracking.

Old AdWords Experience

  • From your “Campaigns” dashboard
    • Click the +CAMPAIGN button
    • Click “Search Network Only”
    • After naming your campaign, Click “All Features” for type for the most flexibility in terms of customization
  • Networks > Click “Include Search Partners”
  • Locations > Enter where in the world you want your Ad the show
  • Bid Strategy > Enter budget
  • Ad extensions > For a deep dive into the various extensions, check out our other videos: LocationSitelinksCall Extensions, Callout Extensions, Mobile App Extensions (unavailable for Search Network Only campaigns)
  • Ad Scheduling > choose when you want your Ads to show. To make bid adjustments based on timing, check out our how-to video here

Got any pro-tips for search campaigns? Hit us up in the comments below or on Twitter

Further reads:

  1. How to set up conversion tracking
  2. How to set up Display Campaigns
  3. How Google AdWords works
  4. Guide to Account Structure

About the Author

Marketing and Growth Director at AdHawk. Helping business find confidence and success online, one hefty article at a time.